The undiscovered region in the toe of Italy’s boot, Calabria is a hidden, but perfect, beach destination. For a region of Italy often compared to the Caribbean, it’s surprising that more holidaymakers haven’t flocked to the region. Pristine white sands, top notch cuisine and an infectious laid-back vibe all add to the Caribbean comparisons. But away from the soft sandy beaches, there’s plenty of activity inland. Adrenaline junkies will love the range of watersports on offer, including jet-skiing and windsurfing. And for those who prefer to take their adventures at a slower pace, Calabria has three national parks - home to wild animals and rare plants for keen nature lovers.
Travelling in August? You may well find yourself swept up in one of Calabria’s many festivals. Celebrating everything from swimming to sausages, August is definitely the region’s party season!
Temperatures soar into the 30s during Calabria’s summers, making it an ideal holiday for hitting the beach. If sunbathing on the immaculate sun-bleached shores sounds too toasty, Calabria’s museums, castles and churches offer some cool spots to hang out and learn about the region’s history. Calabria’s beautiful beaches, diverse wildlife and unspoilt villages are just waiting to be discovered. What are you waiting for?
Italian staycationers have been quietly keeping Tropea a secret for years. And with good reason, it’s gorgeous. Cliff top homes perch on the rocks - you can’t tell where the cliff stops and the homes begins. The waters are warm and crystal clear, the golden sands clean and soft. The town itself is a winding labyrinth of little lanes and back streets to explore. Situated on the ‘Coast of the Gods’ - even the local dolphin population spends its time frolicking off Tropea’s shores.
Le Castella’s main draw is the huge fortress which looks out over the ocean. Dating back to the 14th century, the castle sits slightly offshore on a small islet. Stunning at night, the castle’s lights dance on the water below. Open to the public, the castle has a museum but also offers visitors a unique experience. Underwater cameras allow a glimpse into the protected marine seabed surrounding the islet. Elsewhere in La Castella you’ll find history, hand-crafted souvenirs and even a couple of film locations.
Chocolate fans flock to Pizzo for the town’s famous ice cream creation. The tartufo di Pizzo ice cream combines chocolate and hazelnut ice cream, with chocolate fudge sauce, which is then dusted with cocoa powder and sugar. Heaven. Pizzo’s more cultural offering, the the Chiesetta di Piedigrotta, is a church dug into a cave on the nearby rocks. Decorated with statues, the cave forms a tribute to ship-wrecked sailors. Come for the ice-cream, stay for a relaxed town with plenty of sights - including a harbour, narrow bustling lanes and a castle.
Capo Rizzuto is a peninsula in the Crotone region on Calabria. It’s a beautiful place to visit, with its incredible 16th century fortification that completely dominates the skyline. The fortification is actually reached via a narrow causeway, which makes the adventure of going there even more exciting. For historians, this area has plenty of significance. In the 1970s, early Bronze Age and Middle Bronze Age artefacts were found here by archaeologists, and those finds can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Crotone itself.
There is something rather wonderful about this terraced hillside town – and that, by the way, is where the name comes from; the terrace – that offers visitors a feeling of both tranquillity and exploration. Much of the ancient town is still there, and is preserved as carefully as possible for future generations to enjoy. That means that you can still walk along the old town wall, and see many archeologically and architecturally important buildings. However, it’s not all old; the Scalea Marine Centre has recently been developed, and this modern space is where you can find many of the hotels in the town. It’s also where the beaches are, and if you want to enjoy a relaxing day on the sand, the marina is where you should aim. When you’re not lying on the beach, you might want to visit the 13th century Palace of the Princes, or the 12th century Norman Palazzetto.
Messina is the third largest city on Sicily, and the 13th largest in Italy in general, so your expectations of the city being a busy, bustling one would be right. It’s easy to forget that Italy isn’t all beaches and farmland, so get out into the big, wide world and experience something different. For a city break, Messina is ideal. Visit the 12th century cathedral where you can find the remains of King Conrad who ruled Sicily and Germany in the 13th century. Although almost completed destroyed in the 1908 earthquake, it was rebuilt from 1919 to 1920. Then in 1943 it was destroyed again due to bombs in World War II – but again it was rebuilt. Visitors should also look out for the Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Carmelo where you can see a 17th century statue of the Virgin Mary.
Regularly voted among Italy’s top ten beaches and among the top 100 beaches in the world, Capo Vaticano is a beauty. A sweeping white sand shore is gently lapped by waves of every shade of blue imaginable. Turquoise darks to sapphire as the water deepens. Popular with scuba divers, the rich seabed is home to a diverse marine life. Stay ’til sundown for a sunset worth waiting for.
White Water Rafting
Explore the region’s Pollino mountains with added adrenaline. Surge down the River Lao rapids for an unforgettable Calabria experience. Several companies offer holidaymakers the chance to negotiate different sections of river - depending on ability and bravery! For a very different view of the region, get your wetsuit on and paddle!
National Museum of Reggio Calabria
The four floors of this recently restored museum are well-stocked with countless exhibits. Telling Calabria’s rich and diverse history, the displays include items from every era, dated between the Paleolithic to late Roman times. Ceramics, artwork and mosaics from the region offer a real insight into Calabria’s past.
Visit the Forest of Giants
Get back to nature and find Calabria’s tallest trees in the 73,000 hectare National Park of Sila. The park changes with the seasons. Displaying vibrant orange and fiery red leaves in autumn, lush green in spring summer and white over in winter. We’re told that the ancient pine forest is where you’ll find the tallest trees. See if you can spot the park’s other residents - wolves and eagles - while you’re there.
Cooking up so much more than pizza and pasta, Italy’s cuisine is satisfying, without being stodgy. Fresh tomatoes feature heavily in salads and sauces. Lemons from the country’s aromatic lemon groves are the key ingredient in everything from liqueurs to gelatos and soups. The best recipes celebrate the produce grown, harvested or caught in the local region. One thing is certain, in Italy you’ve got no chance of going hungry.
Authentic cuisine, Michelin starred, refined or rustic? Whatever you’re looking for, Calabria has a restaurant to suit your tastes. Dine with a sea view or try out a trattoria tucked away in the remote hills. Menus tend to feature locally produced food - with a twist. The hot climate has encouraged chefs to concoct ways to preserve the crops and meat, resulting in some unique flavours and recipes.
Aubergine is a staple of many restaurants in Calabria and a visit to the region isn’t complete without trying the delicious Ciambotta. This spicy aubergine stew recipe varies in each restaurant. The main ingredients of chilli, tomatoes, onion and herbs combine to make a gorgeous vegetarian dish we recommend tracking down.
Calabria holidays are ideal holidaymakers looking to avoid the crowds. From beach lovers to families and couples, there’s a region of Calabria for everyone. With seaside towns and quiet villages as well as world-class beaches, expansive cliff top views, annual festivals, and of course delicious cuisine, this is a diverse and beautiful place to visit at any time of year.
Booking your holiday to Calabria with easyJet holidays is the best way to get to Italy’s best kept secret hassle-free. Best of all, you can save on your holiday when you book your flight and hotel together with easyJet holidays.
Calabria not quite floating your boat? Have a read of our other Italy destination guides for further inspiration and temptation!